London maritime arbitration
Arbitration is a private method of resolving disputes. It is used when parties agree to refer their dispute to an impartial tribunal consisting of one or more arbitrators. Parties normally agree to arbitration by means of an arbitration agreement in a contract made before a dispute has arisen. It can also be agreed after a dispute has arisen. Arbitration differs radically from court proceedings in that it arises out of an agreement and the rules of procedure governing litigation do not apply, thus allowing a flexible and confidential procedure to be adopted to suit the parties’ convenience. Arbitrators are generally appointed by the parties (or by means to which the parties have agreed) and are paid by the parties; they are usually chosen for their familiarity with the commercial, technical or legal aspects of the dispute. The advantages of arbitration are its privacy, its potential as a flexible, speedy means of resolving commercial disputes and the ability to enforce arbitral awards under the New York Convention. However, the efficiency of arbitration depends on the cooperation of the parties (and their lawyers and indeed the arbitrators) in preparing a case and minimising the areas of substantive dispute. The Arbitration Act 1996 places duties on the parties and the arbitrators to ensure the dispute is resolved efficiently. However, in practice it may be difficult to enforce these duties and arbitration can be just as slow and expensive as litigation if the parties will not cooperate and if the arbitrators do not take a firm approach to the proceedings.
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